Friday 31 May 2013

Interview #7 (May 2013): Alderney captain Andy Lawrence

Alderney is the most northerly of the Channel Islands with a population of only 1,600. The island does enjoy full autonomy in law, and even has its own language Auregnais, but the tiny size of it means they have always remained in the sporting shadow of neighbours Guernsey and Jersey. The Ridunians have contested every Muratti Vase since 1905, even stunning Guernsey with a 1-0 win in 1920, and since the mid 1990’s their picturesque Mount Hale ground has hosted the annual semi-final defeat.

Picturesque...the islands's only ground Mount Hale
That win over Guernsey is 1 of only 2 games Alderney have ever won, out of 105 matches. They have drawn once meaning their loss count stands at 102. With such a tiny pool of players to work with this record is hardly surprising. The island is not easy to reach with sporadic flights from Guernsey, Jersey and the mainland as well as ferries from neighbouring islands.

The Muratti semi-final is traditionally held in March against either Guernsey or Jersey, with the latter winning 9-2 this spring. Despite the thrashing the 2 Alderney goals were the first Muratti double for them in 52 years. Alderney have also contested 2 Island Games before – in 2003 on Guernsey and in 2011 on the Isle of Wight.

The 2003 games saw the Ridunians claim their 2nd win, 1-0 over the Estonian island Saaremaa. Whilst the islanders have never been humiliated at the games the gap between themselves and the opposition is apparent; only 1 goal was scored in the last campaign. The Alderney national team also doubles up as a club, Bavaria Nomads, which competes in the Guernsey 2nd tier the Jackson League. They finished a respectable 4th in the season just finished and also played 2 non-FIFA internationals outside the Muratti or Island Games for the first time. Sealand traveled over for a game in August, which our interviewee opened the scoring in, which ultimately ended up with the N.F.-Board side winning on penalties.

In March the isolated islanders traveled to Surrey in England for a re-match, losing 2-1 as they prepared for the following weekend’s Muratti semi. The non-FIFA route is being further explored by the Alderney FA and this July they will contest the inaugural Tynwald Hill Tournament on the Isle of Man, where they will meet club side St Johns United and N.F.-Board members and 2012 VIVA World Cup contestants Raetia in group B.

In our May interview we spoke to current captain Andy Lawrence about the future of the Muratti semi-final, which was questioned by Jersey boss Craig Culkin back in March, as well as his thoughts on the progress and future  of football on Alderney.

Leader...Lawrence in action against Sealand in March
NFFU: Before this year’s Muratti semi-final Jersey manager Craig Culkin said ‘Alderney need to step out of their comfort zone’ and have the annual game on either Jersey or Guernsey. What were your thoughts to these comments?

AL: Personally it wouldn't bother me if we played at home or away, what Mr Culkin fails to see though is that the semi final is crucial for the Alderney Football Club financially, we have a lot of supporters come to watch us each year and the money they put into the club on that day helps us a lot each year.

NFFU: Do you think the 9-2 defeat was a fair reflection of Alderney’s performance on the day?

AL: Not at all, the wind was a huge factor that day, if i could have won the toss and gone with the wind in the first half I firmly believe we could have gone into half time with a level scoreline and something to hold onto for the second half.

NFFU: Do you think the Muratti will remain at Mount Hale for the time being?

AL: I hope so, as I said before its crucial for the club. If it's decided it will be played away from Mount Hale then so be it, i won't argue with that.

NFFU:  In the last year Alderney have played N.F.-Board members Sealand on 2 occasions. How did you and the team find the experience, particularly of hosting and travelling to a new team?

AL: It was great, Sealand are probably a slight step up from most of the teams we face week in week out in the league so it was a good test. Hopefully there will be many more games between the two teams.

NFFU: Do you think playing Sealand was beneficial to your own team’s development and improvement?

AL: Most definitely. The better teams you play against the better you will have to prepare and play.

NFFU: You've played at 2 Island Games, in 2003 and 2011. How did you find both tournaments? Have the games grown a lot in the last decade or so? 

Leaky...Alderney concede against Jersey in this year's Muratti semi
AL: Both island games were really good experiences  It was really nice to be part of it with all sorts of islands coming together. I'd say there was about the same interest in 2003 & 2011 with a lot of the same teams competing in both.

NFFU: Are Alderney planning on sending a football team to Jersey in 2015?

AL: We have already started discussing Jersey 2015 so i'd say its almost certain we will be playing in the 2015 tournament.

NFFU: Who would you say Alderney’s best players are? Do you have any not based on the island?

AL: We have a lot of good players in our squad as well as some youngsters coming through. Stevie Concanen is a tough tackling midfielder. We have a few UK based players, Josh Concanen (Stevie's younger brother) will be a massive plus to the squad, he has recently been at Exeter and now plays for Tiverton Town, Jason Atkins is also a good centre back.

NFFU: The non-FIFA route has been further explored it by the Alderney FA it seems with the participation in the Tynwald Hill Tournament on the Isle of Man in July. How did this opportunity come about?

AL: I'm not actually 100% sure how the invite came around, I think it was word-of-mouth from the Sealand FA, but i do know as soon as it was mentioned everyone was keen to take part. 

NFFU: Are you looking forward to the tournament? What do you make of your group?

AL: I'm really looking forward to getting to the Isle of Man, if I'm completely honest we know very little about our opponents in the group, all we can do is prepare properly and hopefully we can match each team we play.

NFFU: Playing on Tynwald Day against the hosts should see a large crowd coming to watch. What’s the biggest number that has watched an Alderney game before?

Even...both games against Sealand have been closely contested
ALThat will be great if we can get a big crowd for Tynwald Day, I have been looking it up on the internet and it will be nice to be involved in a way. When we played Guernsey in the opening game of the 2003 island games i think there was near if not more than 2000 people at the Corbet Field, once the game started you didn't take much notice of the crowd though.

NFFU: How many years do you think you have left in an Alderney shirt?

AL: As long as i remain on the island hopefully a good few years yet, i'm coming up to 28 so hopefully i can make it to the late 30's, if i am still getting picked!

NFFU: Finally, what is your fondest memory whilst playing for Alderney?

AL: Without a doubt winning in the 2003 Island G
ames against Sareemaa, that was Alderney's only 2nd ever victory and to be part of that is something I won't ever forget, we certainly had a good party after that game!

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Brittany topple Mali to claim fine FIFA scalp

Brittany produced a tempered performance to defeat Mali, currently ranked 3rd in Africa by FIFA, 1-0 in a rain-drenched Stade du Moulin-Boisseau in Carquefou last night. A number of the Mali players got lost en-route to the match but after a slightly delayed kick-off a cagey and close encounter was settled by a 71st minute strike from Yann Kermorgant, who plays his in England with Championship side Charlton Athletic. 

Pre-match...Claude Le Roy applauds the anthems
France call-ups for Yoann Gorcuff and Mickaël Landreau meant they sat the game out but after French reality television star Laura Chab’ kicked-off the match a strong Brittany side made a quick start, Gaël Danic testing Soumbeïla Diakité inside 5 minutes. Both teams tried to enforce their style in the soaking conditions and Mali hero Seydou Keita shot fizzed wide in the 26th minute.

Brittany looked strong from set-pieces and with 10 minutes before the interval a corner from the right-side saw Lorient defender Arnaud Le Lan head inches wide of Diakité’s post. Mali enjoyed some possession in the hosts half but the score was goalless at half-time.
Scalp...Mali are ranked 26th in the world

Brittany made 6 substitutions at the break and they came out the livelier side once more, Gaëtan Courtet of Reims scooping the ball wide from close-range. Courtet’s strike partner Yohann Rivière was brought off in the 62nd minute and it took less than 10 minutes for his replacement Yann Kermorgant to make a big impact. 

Kermorgant had a fine season with English 2nd-tier club Charlton Athletic as he finished joint top-scorer with 12 goals and his form continued in Carqefou as his long-range effort flew past Diakité to send the crowd, and their bagpipes, into raptures. 

Celebrations...the Brittany changing room post-match
Mali pressed and threatened to equalise on a couple of occasions. Samba Sow of Lens nearly matched Kermorgant’s super-sub role in the 82nd minute but Jean-Marc Le Rouzic, on at half-time, made the save. Brittany managed to hold on fairly comfortably and claim a notable win, arguably their best result of all-time.

Despite initially being rumoured to participate in the Tournoi des Cultures in Marseille in June the BFA have said this won’t happen. It’s likely the Brittany national team showpiece will become an annual event, and if their Les Bleus stars are able to play in 2014 then greater scalps could be on the horizon. 

Match information

Score: Brittany 1 -0 Mali

Goals: Yann Kermorgant 71'

Brittany XI: Caradec [Le Rouzic 45’]; Billy [Quintin 45’], Le Marchand [Flégeau 45’], Talmont [Thomas 45’], Le Lan [Poletti 45’]; Moullec [Montaroup 45'], Sammaritano, Danic, Didot [Biger 62’]; Courtet, Rivière [Kermorgant 62'].

Monday 27 May 2013

Big names back for Brittany ahead of Mali encounter

Victory..Brittany before the 3-1 win over Congo in 2008
The Brittany national team, which operates in a similar way to the Spanish autonomous sides, will have a strong squad when they take on FIFA member Mali tomorrow night in Carquefou. 

The Bretagne Football Association have not organised a match for 2 years when a side drawn primarily from Ligue 2 and Championnat National clubs disappointingly lost 1-0 to Equatorial Guinea. However this year well-travelled manager Claude Le Roy has a number of Ligue 1 players to call on including Toulouse midfielder Etienne Didot, Rennes defender Romain Danzé and Les Blues goalkeeper Mickaël Landreau, who plays for Bastia. 

Captain...Didot will lead Brittany
Mali will represent a thorough test of the non-FIFA side’s ability however after consecutive 3rd-place finishes at the African Cup of Nations and a current world ranking of 26.The match has been branded ‘Solidarité Mali’ with all proceeds going to the war-torn African nation. BFA president Gerard Russo explained “this charity match is for the benefit of Kati, a Malian town twinned with Saint-Sebastien-sur-Loire”.

The Brittany national team has generally failed to call on such big name players over the last few years demonstrated by the previously mentioned loss to Equatorial Guinea as well as a 2-0 defeat by Corsica in a non-FIFA match in 2010. Despite this they have a decent record against African sides having beaten Congo 3-1 in 2008 and Togo 2-1 2 years later. There were rumours of a Celtic Nations Cup with Scotland, Ireland and Wales being set-up a few years ago but that pipe-dream seems to have fizzled out.

Setting...USJA Carquefou will host some big names
Gaël Danic of Valenciennes will prove a handful in attack along with England-based Yann Kermorgant , who is currently at Charlton Athletic. The midfield also looks strong with Toulouse enforcer Etienne Didot and Johann Ramaré of Reims set to start. The powerful Malian attack could cause a defence not used to playing together problems but Landreau remains a steady figure in goal after moving to Bastia in December. There remain doubts of Landreau's role however after Lyon midfielder Yoann Gorcuff pulled out having been called up to the French national team, which the former Lille stopper has also been named in.

Former Barcelona man Seydou Keita, focal point the national team, is included in the Mali squad as The Eagles prepare for June World Cup qualifiers against Rwanda and Benin. Mamadou Samassa will likely lead the line although there have been calls for manager Patrice Carteron to start Bordeaux striker Cheick Diabaté instead. Carteron is from Brittany and recently caused controversy by agreeing to coach Congolese club TP Mazembe in conjunction with the Malian national team.
The Voice...Chab' poses in a Brittany jacket

The inclusion of big names – effectively a full-strength Brittany team – means USJA Carquefou’s 3,500 capacity Stade du Moulin-Boisseau is expected to be sold out tomorrow evening. Laura Chab’, star of French reality television show The Voice, will bring further glamour to the 3rd-tier club when she sings the national anthems. The match kicks off at 20:30 local time (19:30 UK) and we will endeavour to bring updates via our Twitter service @NonFIFAfootball during the game. A full report will be available on the blog in the coming days as well as our exclusive interview for May.

Thursday 23 May 2013

Guernsey champions of the Channel Islands with 2-1 Muratti win

Guernsey saw off arch rivals Jersey 2-1 to win the 2013 Muratti and secure back-to-back trophies for the 1st time in 21 years. The hosts went 2 goals ahead with many of the pre-match predictions of a comfy Sarnian victory looking spot on. However Jersey rallied in the 2nd half and came close to forcing extra time.

Champions...Guernsey captain Chris Tardif lifts the Muratti vase
Craig Young's goal inside two minutes got the Green and Whites off to a flying start. Guernsey FC top scorer Ross Allen, who's netted in 2 previous Muratti finals, doubled the lead just before half-time as he ended a great 50-yard run with a strike that flew in off the woodwork. Jack Boyle pulled one back for Jersey after the break, while Darryl Wilson hit the side-netting for the visitors.

BBC Radio Jerey and BBC Guernsey's full match report is available here -
Highlights of the game can be viewed via's -

Match information

Score: Guernsey 2 -1 Jersey

Goals: Guernsey – Craig Young 2’ Ross Allen 44’. Jersey – Jack Boyle 55'

Guernsey XI: Chris Tardif; Tom Strawbridge, Alex Le Prevost, Jamie Dodd, Glyn Dyer; Angus Mackay, Kieran Mahon, Dominic Heaume, Dave Rihoy; Ross Allen, Craig Young.

Jersey XI: Jimmy Styles; Pierce Cummins, Luke Campbell, Jack Cannon, Jay Giles; Jamie Savory, Chris Andrews [Mourant 73'], Luke Watson, Jack Boyle; Ben Gallichan, Rupert Murray [Wilson 66'].

Monday 13 May 2013

Jersey Unshore: Guernsey happy with favourites label for ‘biggest game of the year'

Toe-to-toe...this year is the 97th Muratti final
The 97th annual Muratti takes place in Saint-Sampson on Saturday where hosts Guernsey will be looking to secure back-to-back trophies for the first time since 1992. Jersey will be desperate to stop their arch-rivals who they've watched continue to rise up the English non-league pyramid this season after promotion to the Ryman Division One South for the Sarnians. Despite the creation of Guernsey FC and their seemingly unstoppable ride toward the higher echelons of the English semi-professional game national team manager Kevin Graham told us ‘although there's the club success this game remains the biggest of the year for our boys’. The success off the ‘Green Lions’ has been noted by Jersey and assistant manager David Kennedy explained ‘we know this will be a really tough game due to the consistency Guernsey FC have achieved’.

Champions...Guernsey ran out 2-0 winners in 2012
The hosts 19-man squad was chosen solely from players at Guernsey FC. With 2 previous Muratti strikes Ross Allen will be expected to lead the line after a staggering 40 goal haul for the club this season and with newcomer Mark McGrath’s fine end of season form for the Green Lions, as well as his overall season at Priaulx League level, the hosts are not short in attacking options. Nigel Hutton has been ruled out with a leg infection, described as a ‘blow after the season he’s had’ by Graham, and captain Sam Cochrane has a hamstring strain but the manager explained ‘he’s back to light training and he’ll have a fitness test as late as we can leave it’. However since speaking to Graham Cochrane has pulled out of the squad. Dom Heaume, who hit a brace in the 2-0 win on Jersey last year, is also in the squad. 

Guernsey have only won 3 out of the last 11 Muratti titles and their last meeting with Jersey saw a weakened team thrashed 3-0 in the FA International Shield in Gibraltar last summer but Graham believes his side are favourites after the successes of the club team ‘they are still on a high from promotion and that experience should actually benefit us’. The manager told us how the weather meant his players had played more often in the last few months than he would have liked but went on to say ‘we are confident we've got the players to get the job done on the day’.
Rivalry...Jersey will want to avenge the 2012 loss

Having cruised past Alderney in the semi-final Jersey will have seen their UEFA Regions Cup exploits as England as the perfect platform ahead of this Muratti. Wins over Ireland and San Marino sadly proved not enough as a late defeat to Northern Ireland saw Jersey exit at the intermediary round. ‘Our players were outstanding in the Regions Cup and are determined to produce that form in the Muratti’ explained assistant manager Kennedy and the visitors will select a similar squad who traveled to San Marino. Jimmy Styles is expected to return between the sticks after Craig Fletcher’s outing against Alderney, with key players Jack Cannon, Jamie Savory and Luke Campbell likely to start. Craig Russell, who scored against Northern Ireland and hit a brace against Guernsey last summer, could also feature on Saturday. 

Doubtful...skipper Luke Watson has a hernia
Stuart Andre missed the Regions Cup but the scorer of the winning goal in the 2009 Muratti could return to the defence, although the visitors might be without influential captain Luke Watson. The St Paul’s midfielder was also on target in San Marino and Alderney but has a hernia and manager Craig Culkin told the BBC ‘he's going to be very doubtful - it's going to be a little bit of a blow’. Culkin's words will perhaps go down as mind games with Watson later included in the squad. A 4-1 loss to Middlesex Wanderers last weekend, a team comprised mainly of players from the Ryman League Guernsey are set to enter, will not have helped confidence.  Despite the apparent shift in power towards Guernsey Jersey have lost only 2 of their last 14 meetings with their rivals, and Kennedy feels Saturdays match ‘has the potential to be one of the best Muratti’s for years’. 

Our report and photos from the match will be on the blog on Sunday. The match kicks-off at 13:00 on Saturday with tickets on sale for £5 or £10 from the Guernsey FA headquarters.